August 23, 2008

Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe, John McCain... and in sequence #2: John Lennon, Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi, and Barack Obama.

With flashing images, Madonna is trying to tell you something.

I contemplate the symmetry of the names Obama and Biden.

Boggle fans may like this. 


(And I know the proposed vandalism relates to the "B" in Obama, not the "M," but I'm not going to redo this.) 

ADDED: Simon made this:

And cardeblu sees Damn. [But Glen was first!] 

AND: lurker2209 said:

When I saw the word symmetry in your title, I thought that you were going to point out that when stacked like that, every vowel in OBAMA is above a consonant in BIDEN and every consonant is above a vowel. And both names alternate between vowels and consonants. It is weirdly symmetrical.
It's a damn conspiracy! Amen!

"I think I have a much higher IQ than you do."

WaPo calls attention to that old line of Joe Biden's, and I found it here:

LOL. Life is rough when you don't have a fancy degree to vouch for your intelligence. He was just needled about going to Syracuse University College of Law.

ADDED: To cheer you up in case I've seemed to insinuate anything that has upset you:

"This man is a clear-eyed pragmatist who will get the job done" — says Biden of Obama.

If we can believe it, that's an effective line for people like me. But it must irk the hell out of lefties who want to think O is one of them.

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan live-blogs the Obama-Biden event:
Biden looks pumped, and Teddy Kennedy-like. The message is economic distress and the need to restore the American dream. Biden's speech sounds like the latter part of the Clinton primary campaign. Clintonism without the Clintons: that's what Biden is now offering.
Oh! All the disrespect for Hillary!

Why didn't I watch this? I was out, in a café. Actually, at the next table a woman was watching the event live-streamed on her laptop — with the sound on! She had her 6th grader daughter next to her, watching along. Maybe she assumed that, this being Madison, we'd all be excited to have the Voice of Obama interwoven with the rock music the café was piping in and our hearts would glow at the sight of a little girl transfixed by the exalted politician.

Maybe in Madison, there's an Obama exception to what I thought was an absolute rule of etiquette about using headphones if you're playing audio on your computer in a café. Fortunately, I had my headphones, so I turned on the XM radio streaming to block the chaotic sound. I picked the channel Real Jazz. Trio da Paz was playing "All the Things You Are," which was perfectly charming. Instrumental, but the lyrics still ran through my head:
You are the promised kiss of springtime
That makes the lonely winter seem long.
You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.
You are the angel glow that lights a star,
The dearest things I know are what you are.
Which, of course, is how we all think of Barack, now, isn't it?

I hope if you're a loner, you're a true loner and not a pseudo-loner.

A few weeks ago, I did a diavlog with Bella DePaulo in which I brought up the Jonathan Rauch essay "Caring for Your Introvert." She read and liked it and has this post:
The same year that Rauch's essay appeared, the witty and wonderful Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto was also published. Loners, notes author Anneli Rufus, are people who prefer to be alone. They are not sad, lonely, or deranged.

Contrary to stereotypes and TV-punditry, loners are not serial murderers and they are not school shooters, either. True, there are criminals who look like loners, in that they spend lots of time alone. Typically, though, they are just pseudo-loners, who never craved all that time to themselves. They wanted to be included but were instead rejected.

True loners do not withdraw in order to stew in misery or plot violent revenge. Instead, Rufus reminds us, loners "know better than anyone how to entertain themselves...They have a knack for imagination, concentration, inner discipline, and invention."
If you spend a lot of time alone, don't you also spend a lot of time thinking about why you are spending time alone? Rauch and Rufus and DePaulo are doing PR for solitariness, and I wonder if it's working. Rauch wrote:
How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.
If you have the introvert orientation, do you feel free to be out about it? Don't you have to worry that people will think you're one of the pseudo-loners?

"Get me a robot arm that looks like the Terminator... but I'd rather have my arm back."

Video and news story about Devin Funck, the boy who lived — minus one arm — to tell the tale of his encounter with the 500-pound alligator they call Big Joe. In the video, he says that when he woke up in the hospital — it wasn't a dream — "I wanted to kill the alligator, but they already killed him."
On Sept. 6, he will be the guest of honor at a car show fundraiser being held at the Northshore Harbor Center in Slidell. He is going to receive Big Joe's stuffed head during the event.

"It takes my arm, I take its head, " said Devin.
I hope he gets a great Terminator arm... or series of arms (which he will need as he grows).

What does Joe Biden think about Barack Obama and John McCain?

"Hell of a rollout. Not."

Says Big Tent Democrat, noting Kos, who said:
This has been the best veep rollout EVER....

And is there a better example ... that old media is getting left out in the cold?...

Brilliant! We've got a lot of campaign a head of us, but this has been the Obama campaign's finest operation thus far.
And I thought I smoked too much blog.

Don't you think Joe Biden looks like Don Adams?

(And the Chief — Edward Platt — looks like Bob Novak.)

More on the Cone of Silence:


What Joe Biden said about the public expression of religiosity.

So I'm looking back at all my old posts tagged "biden" to see how I've reacted to him over the last few years, and he comes out looking pretty good.

Now, I didn't like his voting against John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but I understand why he did it, and I didn't object to his questioning the hearings. Simulblogging the hearings, this is the worst thing I ever said about Biden:
Joe Biden is hamming it up big time, dramatizing the frustration of not getting Roberts to say how he'll decide specific cases. We've been through this so many times, but Biden seems to think that, if he just emotes more than the others, the American public will finally see the outrage of a judge not committing his vote before hearing the case. Yet every time Roberts explains why he won't answer, he sounds so eloquent and even inspiring about the role of the judge, that it ends up making the Senator look childish.
I was pretty nice to Biden over the "clean and articulate" gaffe, and basically, I can see that I haven't disliked Joe Biden .

But there's one thing that really stood out in all those posts, and that was his discussion of religion at the debate that took place September 27, 2007. From my live-blogging:
What is your favorite Bible verse? Obama says Sermon on the Mount, but then blabs generically. Hillary Clinton says "The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Which is not exactly a Bible verse, but okay. Why should the candidates be ready to recite Bible verses? Kucinich holds up a card with a prayer from St. Francis, which fits his theme (peace) but, again, isn't a Bible verse. Edwards is impressive with "What you do unto the least of those, you do unto me." This resonates with his poverty theme, and I like the way he doesn't point out that it does. Richardson says the Sermon on the Mount. Yeah, well, Obama already said that so it's boring. You had time to think of a specific verse in the Sermon to distinguish yourself. "Blessed are the peacemakers" would have been so easy. Gravel: Love! Dodd cites the Good Samaritan. Biden: "Christ's warning of the Pharisees." Which is a clever answer to the question, essentially critiquing the question. The idea is: Don't parade your religion in public.
The next day, I reflected on that:
Last night at the big debate, Tim Russert asked each of the Democratic candidates to recite their favorite Bible verse. They all made a stab at the assigned task. No one rebelled against the assignment. Who would dare to use the occasion to do a little lecture on the importance of the separation of church and state? It worked for Bush, back in 2000, to sidetrack a question about philosophy into religion and say that Jesus was his favorite philosopher, so who will be bold enough to veer away from an invitation to display religiosity?

Joe Biden came the closest, when he said "Christ's warning of the Pharisees." If you understand the reference, it actually is a subtle way to imply that religion should not be used publicly for the purpose of achieving worldly goals. It's good to remind religious people -- especially religious people who crave more religion in their politics -- that Jesus set his religion apart from politics and gives Christians a religious basis for the separation of church and state.
Here is video of the debate. If you start at 6:04, you'll have a little laugh before the relevant material begins and you can hear what all the candidates say about their favorite Bible verse. To hear just Biden, begin at 8:01:

Now, I'm especially interested in what Biden said there because I was just talking to Bob Wright about the candidates and religion, and he was knocking John McCain for failing to take more opportunities to "witness" to his Christianity, and my immediate response to that was Christ's warning of the Pharisees:

I discussed this a couple days ago, and I was guessing that maybe Bob was reflecting his Baptist background, and I my Episcopalian background, while McCain was had a basically Episcopalian orientation, but had, more recently switched to Baptist, and perhaps this could help us understand McCain's varying levels of expressed religiosity. And now, here is Biden showing what I'd theorized was the Episcopalian style. Biden is Catholic.

Episcopalian, Catholic, whatever... I like this modesty about religion in public life.

"Biden can be counted upon to play the role of house dissenter and septic."

I'm amused by a typo in TNR.

(John pointed that out.)

Biden is poisoning politics! He's not clean!

"Phelps's exceptionally long and hairless torso seems to go on and on until the photo is abruptly, thankfully cropped."

"Instinctively, you know your eyes shouldn't slide any lower, but all warning signs have been waxed away."

Robin Givhan scrutinizes
"the supremely unflattering Sports Illustrated cover" of Michael Phelps. What's so bad about it? Click over. First impression: He's wearing a weird spangly halter top. Second: Oh... those are his medals. Ha ha. Third: Get those crappy Chinese tapestries off him and let me see the torso.

Givhan compares the Phelps photo to the iconic Mark Spitz photo, where the medals hung on chains that remind Givhan of a whole 70s picture:
Spitz's medals are hanging from thin metal chains, a detail that gives the photo a kind of 1970s cool. You could imagine him in some fern bar wearing those medals with a pair of bell-bottoms and a polyester shirt with a collar the size of elephant ears. The photograph captures a particular '70s sexy aesthetic a la Burt Reynolds in the Playgirl centerfold.
And all the gay guys in Greenwich Village back then! (I lived there 1976-1981.)

Givhan also frets about Phelps's lack of "the kind of pumped up, six-pack Hollywood torso typically found on the cover of Men's Fitness and that has come to define today's sexy man." She calls the Phelps torso "a 1970s torso" and says: "To understand its power, it needs to be seen in action barreling through the water like a torpedo."

As long as we're developing our understanding, why don't we look at those Men's Fitness models and rethink whether they represent power? Their muscles come not from doing something admirable and powerful, but from doing what they've figured out will make them look like that. Shouldn't function underlie power? Their function is to model. Phelps's body is what real power looks like.

Sending his text message at 3 a.m. — the time Hillary made emblematic — Obama picks Biden.

Here's the NYT report. I didn't stay up all night waiting to see the long-withheld news. Did you? I woke up naturally, and Obama's VP pick wasn't my first thought, but it was my third or fourth thought, and I picked up the iPhone and checked — no, not for a text message! — I wouldn't hand over my number — I checked Safari to see the news.

So it's Biden.

1. That's what we expected.

2. Why the hell did he drag it out so long?

3. Someone will be very happy and not just because I lost a bet to him.

4. Respect for Delaware, my home state, despite its piddling supply of electoral votes, instead of pandering to some better endowed, showier state.

5. Biden's a good guy, experienced.

6. Another senator, not a governor, all these senators.

7. McCain should pick a governor, and now McCain can pick Romney, because his somewhat awkward facial expressions will be fully balanced by Biden's — it's a wash, smile-wise.

8. He picked the guy who called him "clean" and "articulate," so maybe that means he's not as thin-skinned as he's seemed.

9. The man known for his orating powers has picked a man who loves to talk but is somewhat out-of-control in his speech — perhaps he sees him as some kind of counterpart, for Obama has plenty of verbal glitches when he's speaking spontaneously.

10. That 3 a.m. text-time will needle hold-out Hillary lovers.

11. What do I really think of Biden? I should go back over my old posts tagged "Biden" and see what I've said over the years. But that will be the next post. [Done here.]

August 22, 2008

Let's talk about the song "Hello Mary Lou."

Queen sang it:

So did Led Zeppelin. Not to mention The New Riders of the Purple Sage.

But Ricky Nelson was first (and handsomest)(and not grunge, despite all those plaid flannel shirts):

About that Pamela Anderson ad.

Has it been troubling you? Today's the last day, so if you don't want to see it anymore, you have only to wait a few hours. By the same token, this is your last chance to click through. It's not about sex, you know. It's about the welfare of chickens. (Image from the ad preserved here.)

Anyway, the click-through rate on that ad is so much higher than on any other ad I've run, it's pretty funny. It definitely got your attention. You know you ignore most of the ads.

Should I have rejected that ad?
No. free polls

The David Brooks column about Joe Biden brings back a memory of my grandfather and makes me ask a question about Wilmington, Delaware.

David Brooks has a column today called "Hoping It's Biden," and I noticed this:
Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.

His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.
This fascinates me. I was born in Wilmington, Delaware and lived in or near it (in Newark) until I was 12. My father grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and his parents — my grandparents Mom and Pop — lived there until they died. That is, unlike Biden, who started out in Scranton, my family was deeply embedded in the culture of Wilmington, Delaware. And reading that Brooks column called to mind something about Pop that I hadn't thought of in decades. Now, Pop was a perfectly nice man — you know Pop, I wrote about him fondly back here — but he used to toss nickels on the floor for the fun of having us scramble for them.

Is this some kind of Delaware thing?

ADDED: Was it "fierce working-class pride" to take umbrage at the coins tossed on the floor? Or was it the old rich-man pride? In my family, no one perceived it as offensive to induce a coin scramble. It was just fun. Obviously, the activity works when the coins are much more meaningful to one person than the other. Someone is willing to toss the coins for the fun of seeing the scramble, and someone else is willing to scramble. But what kind of person is disgusted by the display? The regular Joe?

ANOTHER THING: Amazing Delaware fact about Althouse: Long ago, I demonstrated how to make a hat to Governor Boggs.

"Can't decide between Barack Obama and John McCain? Chances are your brain already has."

"Using a simple word association test to look inside voters' heads, Canadian and Italian researchers found that many voters who thought they were undecided had unconsciously made up their minds."

Do you think the person who sent me that link was trying to say something about me?

The accuser in the Duke rape case is publishing a memoir.

And LaShawn Barber says:
If Crystal Mangum had any grace, she’d ask for God’s grace, get on with her life, make amends the best she can, and raise decent children. But she’s still trying to get paid.
According to the linked article, she's thinking of going to law school. Well, we'll see what she does with this memoir. Even if people buy this book, it won't work as a moneymaking scheme if it provokes a defamation lawsuit.

"As Cindy McCain faithfully shadows her husband... it's hard to imagine that she was once the senior member of their partnership."

Noam Scheiber has a long article in TNR on Cindy McCain:
Looking back, McCain's steady march from admiral's son to war hero to White House contender seems almost preordained--certainly unrelated to the brittle blond cipher at his side. Cindy brings to mind the political wives of yore--a perpetually demure and deferential presence. All the more so in an age of Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama.

But the reality behind this political creation myth is far more complex. McCain was a relative nobody when he married Cindy Hensley--a middle-aged divorcé working a mid-level job in a far-off bureaucracy. It was the Hensleys who would breathe life into his prospects and provide a springboard for his ascent. Their ambitions burned every bit as brightly as his did. Except that, unlike McCain, they'd long since hidden their motives from public view.

You'll have to read the whole thing to see if he proves his thesis.

And here's the 1982 campaign ad included at the link:

I'm getting pretty tired of waiting for Obama to announce his VP pick.

But in case you want to talk about it, this is the post. I'm going to bet on Sebelius. I think she's got that blend of differentness and dullness that will go rather nicely with his.

Approaching the essence of grunge.

We're up to #10 through 6 on the top 40 grunge songs.

Obama's law review case comment — about the rights of a fetus againt its mother.

Politico has unearthed Barack Obama's lost law review article — a short, unsigned piece known a "case comment."
The six-page summary, tucked into the third volume of the year's Harvard Law Review, considers the charged, if peripheral, question of whether fetuses should be able to file lawsuits against their mothers. Obama's answer, like most courts': No. He wrote approvingly of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that the unborn cannot sue their mothers for negligence, and he suggested that allowing fetuses to sue would violate the mother's rights and could, perversely, cause her to take more risks with her pregnancy.

The subject matter took Obama to the treacherous political landscape of reproductive rights, and - unlike many student authors - he dived eagerly into the policy implications of the court decision. His article acknowledged a public interest in the health of the fetus, but also seemed to demonstrate his continuing commitment to abortion rights, and suggested that the government may have more important concerns than "ensuring that any particular fetus is born."

And he concluded the article with a flourish: "Expanded access to prenatal education and heath care facilities will far more likely serve the very real state interest in preventing increasing numbers of children from being born in to lives of pain and despair."
I looked up the article and can assure you that the last line has the word "into" and not "in to," so hold your mockery on that point. And the case he's writing about, Stallman v. Youngquist, did not involve a fetus that survived abortion. A child was born with injuries caused in the womb when the mother had a car accident. But the issue of abortion is in the background and the subject comes up in the penultimate paragraph, which reads:
Most proponents and critics of the creation of a fetus' right to sue its mother agree that the approach taken in the Supreme Court's abortion decisions -- balancing a woman's right to privacy and bodily autonomy against the state's interest in protecting the fetus -- provides a starting point for analyzing the constitutionality of fetal-maternal tort suits. Commentators also agree that courts should weigh these interests differently in cases where a woman has decided to carry her pregnancy to term, and that the issue of fetal-maternal tort suits therefore demands a separate doctrinal framework. For example, fetal-maternal tort suits might entail far more intrusive scrutiny of a woman's behavior than the scrutiny involved in the discrete regulation of the abortion decision. On the other hand, the state may also have a more compelling interest in ensuring that fetuses carried to term do not suffer from debilitating injuries than it does in ensuring that any particular fetus is born.
Be very careful here. That last line, that "flourish," as Politico has it, about "preventing increasing numbers of children from being born into lives of pain and despair," is not an expression of enthusiasm for aborting children who, if born, would have an unfortunate life. It refers to encouraging pregnant women to take care so that their children are not injured in utero and will be born into a happier life. Note too, that the lawsuit is really about the injured child getting access to the mother's insurers.

What is odd is that up until now, we'd been led to think that Obama, despite his stature as president of the Harvard Law Review, had never written anything. Once Politico tracked down the article, the campaign acknowledged that Obama had written it. But why the urge to suppress it? Obama took knocks for his supposed failure to produce any legal scholarship. It seems that abortion is just not something he wants to have to talk about.

ADDED: Eugene Volokh makes a nice point about the legal issue:
Pretending for a moment that we actually care about the article as an article, my one suggestion would have been to pay a bit more attention to the risk of collusive lawsuits: Since the fetus-mother lawsuit would usually make sense only if the mother has liability insurance -- as many people do, just under their auto insurance or homeowner's insurance policies -- there would be very great temptation in an injury case for the mother to overstate her possible negligence, so the fetus gets more money from the insurance company. I imagine many a person, even one who is ordinarily quite ethical, might find this temptation hard to resist in a case such as this one, when it's a matter of helping one's family (especially when the family will be facing huge medical or supplemental care bills as a result of the injury) at the expense of a faceless insurance company. The article mentions the insurance factor as a reason to worry about generally higher premiums for pregnant women, but not the collusive lawsuit concern.
Obama refrained from saying something negative about women and from highlighting the interests of the insurance companies.

Yesterday was the day the presidential campaign turned ugly.

Let's remember the date. I think it started when McCain mumbled a nonanswer to the question how many houses did he own. The Obama campaign chomped at what looked like yummy bait and spewed a clunky class warfare ad, and then the McCain campaign took that as license to churn out a local-election-style negative ad about Obama and Rezko.

Then there was this ad too — not an official campaign ad — but nevertheless a warning of how bad things are going to get:

Andrew Sullivan says:
The far right goes there. The source of the smear is a group called the American Issues Project. According to Ben Smith, its spokesman, Christian Pinkston, is a former aide to presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and went on to run the conservative group Empower America. Jack Kemp must be proud, don't you think? And Stanley Kurtz just had an obasm.
I wonder if Sullivan knows that Rush Limbaugh uses the word "obasm." Limbaugh uses it, however, not to describe the response of Obama haters, but Obama lovers. Interestingly different uses of the sexual metaphor, no?

And let's think about what it means to have gone there. What's the there to which we should be so concerned about not going? At the Ben Smith link (above), we see this:
The use of 9/11 imagery links Ayers, and Obama, to the American conflict Islamic terror, which is the subject of many viral e-mails attacking Obama.

The group's spokesman, Christian Pinkston, called the suggestion that the group is making any link with Islam "unfair."

"The idea here was to talk about the fact that his friends hate America, and that's who he's aligning himself with," he said.
I heard and saw the ad a few times without hearing any insinuation that Obama is Muslim, but perhaps that's because I know who Ayers is and what the Weathermen were. If the there to which one is not to go is simply terrorism, I agree that it's ridiculous to suggest that Obama is a terrorist, but it is certainly legitimate to investigate his connection to Ayers — as Stanley Kurtz is trying to do:
William Ayers—and his ties to Barack Obama—have re-emerged as an issue this week after Stanley Kurtz recounted Aug. 18 in the conservative National Review how he was unable to access 132 boxes of records of internal files for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge stored at the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Ayers is a professor.

Ayers was a founder of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which focuses on school reform, and Obama was chairman of the board at the time he was getting his start in Chicago politics.

A 1960s radical in the Weather Underground, Ayers spent several years as a fugitive. Today, he’s a college professor and prominent political activist in Chicago.

Obama has described Ayers as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and has said it’s absurd to link him to the terrorist acts Ayers participated in during the 1960s, including planting bombs in the Pentagon. “And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense,” Obama has said....

The Chicago Tribune pressed [Mayor Richard M.] Daley Wednesday on whether the documents should be released. “People keep trying to align himself with Barack Obama,” Daley said of Ayers. “It’s really unfortunate. They’re friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects back and he’s been making a strong contribution to our community.”
Well, if everything's just lovely, release the documents.

Hey, Florida readers, are you okay?

What a long tropical storm. Is your front lawn a pool swirling with alligators?

August 21, 2008

Sexy Old Album Covers From My Father.

ADDED: This post is a continuation of this.

John McCain, too rich to be President.

How many houses does he have? "It's seven. Worth thirteen million dollars." You don't want a President who's managed to become rich, do you? So pick Obama, who lives in a hut. No, wait, that's Barack's brother George. Obama lives in... that Chicago house that cost... how much?

UPDATE: The McCain campaign rushes out this ad to respond:

Today's the day things really went negative.

When Varla Jean helped Joe get from Elvis to Ann-Margret.

Didn't you love Project Runway last night?

Unlike Project Rungay, Television Without Pity did not think Joe should have — spoiler alert — won.

"Professor Who Flew to Deliver Guest Lecture Bills Stanford for Carbon Offset of Travel."

Yeah, that happened. Ha ha.
Ben Shneiderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland at College Park, says he was happy to give a guest lecture at Stanford University this past spring, but he was concerned about the environmental impact of his flight across the country to get there.

So when he submitted his receipts for reimbursement by Stanford’s Symbolic Systems Program, the group that had invited him, he included a charge for a small donation to the Foundation to offset the trip’s impact.

“The amount was only $11.33, but the symbolic nature of the Symbolic Systems Lab paying it was very satisfying,” said Mr. Shneiderman in an interview. He said the lab had paid it without question.

He wondered if universities should develop policies to pay such carbon offsets for professors’ travel to make the practice routine. “The principle is that it should be,” he said, since sustainability is such a big issue that higher-education institutions are advocating. “I think it is the right thing to do,” he added.
Why don't all us environmentalists just stop going anywhere? But, failing that, let's all bill Stanford for our environmental sins.

"W.T.C. 7 Brought Down by Fire, Not Explosives, Report Says."

"Heating of floor beams and girders caused a critical support column to fail... video and photographic evidence combined with detailed computer simulations show that neither explosives nor fuel oils played a rule in the collapse of that brought the building down."

Surely, the conspiracy theorists will pack up their fantasies and subside now.

Hey, James Wolcott called me a peeing intellectual nobility.

And he doesn't even link. The fiend!

But he's mainly pissed — to coin a phrase — at Maureen Dowd: "How can she poison what they've already polluted?"

Now, now, Jim. Urine isn't poison. Why so squeamish?

Here's the part where we talk about Madonna.

Pay special attention to how concerned Bob is about Madonna's bra:

Here's the album cover that made such an impression on Bob:

Here's another album cover we talk about (which may evoke fond/embarrassing memories for some of you):

And I'll see if I can find that old album of my father's that had Anita Ekberg on the cover. BTW, a Google search for Anita Ekberg will give you a NSFW result, so if you want to see a picture, look here.

UPDATE: I made a little video showing those old album covers from my father, beginning with "You're My Thrill," showing Anita Ekberg.

I play the race card on Obama for all but playing the race card on Clarence Thomas.

"Why are we talking about why one black man is smarter than another black man?"

As this clip begins, I'm saying I'm impressed by the way Rick Warren framed questions at the Saddleback Civil Forum:

IN THE COMMENTS: Amba makes a prime witticism: "Obama threw Clarence Thomas under the back of the bus."

Frantic desperation time? What should Obama do? Say what he actually thinks?

This clip includes the subject addressed in the first post today, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. When you think about the exasperation Obama showed when asked about a subject he characterized as already dealt with and needing to be put behind us, consider that Bob Wright — someone who follows politics very closely — seemed never to have heard of the subject.

What did Rick Warren have in mind when he asked does evil exist and what do we do about it?

A segment from my new Bloggingheads with Bob Wright is almost all about evil (but look at the tags to get an idea of the subjects covered):

If the "cross in the dirt" story were true, wouldn't a good Christian have "witnessed" to it early on?

In this Bloggingheads clip, Bob Wright and I refer to different aspects of Christianity (and talk about this Andrew Sullivan post). (At the end, I ask who's more religious, McCain or Obama, and propose a bet that might shock you.)

Watching this now and comparing Bob's take on Christianity to mine, I have a theory about why McCain shifted from not talking about the cross to talking about it.

McCain was initially an Episcopalian, and only fairly recently identified himself as a Baptist. My Christian upbringing was Episcopalian, and Bob Wright was raised as a Southern Baptist. Bob thought of Christianity as something to witness at every opportunity, and I thought Jesus's admonition to keep one's religion private (which comes in Matthew 6, just before he gives the words for the Lord's Prayer):
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Could it be that McCain, as an Episcopalian, thought more like I did, and then later, after becoming a Baptist, saw the matter more the way Bob did?

ADDED: I tweak the eminently tweakable Episcopalians:

It's the new Bloggingheads — with me and Bob Wright!

Here. I'll do some clips soon, but for now, here's the list of topics:
Did McCain cheat at the Saddleback forum? (07:27)
Are Obama and McCain really Christians? (09:10)
Bad vs. evil: a metaphysics primer (16:48)
Time for the Obama camp to panic? (06:13)
Ann disses Obama’s dissing of Clarence Thomas (08:43)
Lack of creativity in BhTV commenters alleged (08:18)
Good title: "Like a Prayer." You can't see it in the segment titles, but we talk about Madonna a lot in the end. We talk about Satan too.

Barack Obama on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

Let's start with the video, in which Obama gets mad, calls people liars, and insists that this is the kind of politics we need to get beyond:

Now, I think his anger is not helpful to his case. He's been asked a civil question by Rick Warren — this is just after the Saddleback Forum — and has an opportunity to reach the very people who are being stirred up by those who are going around saying he voted in favor of infanticide. He should have explained clearly why the Born Alive Infant Protection Act was not what his opponents say it was. I can understand why he's angry at those who present it in a form that makes him look monstrous, but the only workable remedy is to convince us to believe his interpretation of the law — and at least to teach us exactly what it was. He was a law professor. He should be able to bring us along so we can all understand.

In this video clip, all he does is vouch for his own interpretation and demand that we accept it. This is like the way he insists that we not "question his patriotism" when what we're doing — some of us — is trying to learn about and process some things we have questions about. It's delusional to think that millions of people will obey a command to put this behind us. We want to know the details of his relationship with former terrorist Bill Ayers. We want to know the details of the text of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and the politics that surrounded it. The campaign season, for many Americans, is just getting started. It won't do to get pissed off and say that you've already explained this and we need to move on. Move on to what? These are the questions that concern us! And you won't deign to answer.

Obama supporters like to label John McCain McSame, but right now, it's Obama who is reminding me of George Bush. George Bush's greatest failing was his refusal or inability to explain why his judgment was sound and to continually persuade us that the course he had chosen was best. He seemed sure he was right and a little annoyed that we didn't understand it yet. Couldn't we just trust him and stop all this needless questioning? I'm thinking: not "McSame," Obushma.


I went looking for an accurate explanation of Obama's position on the Born Alive law. There's nothing on abortion on the much-touted "Fight the Smears" page of his website. Starting at the front page, I find the "issues" drop-down menu and go to "Women for Obama Issues" to find his material on abortion. There is a brief note of his support for abortion rights. The only outreach to abortion opponents is the line: "Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him."

Google "Born Alive Infant Protection Act," and you mainly get links to the kinds of writings that Obama is angry about. This isn't surprising since his supporters are not so likely to use the term Born Alive Infant Protection Act when they write about it. Yet this is the natural search term to use if you want to learn more, and it's the search term that people he needs to persuade will use.

Here's a recent news article from the Catholic News Agency that, I think a lot of pro-lifers would find and read with trust:
Sen. Barack Obama has repeatedly insisted that he opposed the passage of an Illinois law that would protect infants who survive an abortion on the grounds that it lacked a “neutrality clause.” However, Obama’s explanation was undermined when the National Right to Life Committee revealed “smoking gun” evidence showing that a neutrality clause had in fact been added to the Illinois bill by the same Obama-chaired state Senate committee which quickly voted down the amended bill.

National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) spokesman Douglas Johnson summarized the revelations, saying:

“Newly obtained documents prove that in 2003, Barack Obama, as chairman of an Illinois state Senate committee, voted down a bill to protect live-born survivors of abortion -- even after the panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion.

“Obama's legislative actions in 2003 -- denying effective protection even to babies born alive during abortions -- were contrary to the position taken on the same language by even the most liberal members of Congress. The bill Obama killed was virtually identical to the federal bill that even NARAL ultimately did not oppose.”

The federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) was first introduced into Congress in 2000. A two-paragraph bill, it was intended to clarify that any baby who is entirely expelled from his or her mother and shows any signs of life is to be regarded as a legal person for all purposes of federal law, whether or not the baby was born during an attempted abortion.

A “neutrality clause” was added to state explicitly that the bill expressed no judgment about the legal status of a human being prior to birth.

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being ‘born alive’ as defined in this section,” it read.

The bill passed Congress in 2002 without any dissenting votes and was enacted in August of that year.

As a member of the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama opposed a state version of BAIPA in three successive regular legislative sessions. Even after the pro-abortion group NARAL withdrew its opposition, Obama reportedly continued to oppose the bill, which did not pass the Illinois Senate until 2005, after Obama had left that legislative body.

During his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Obama’s Republican opponent charged Obama with supporting “infanticide” for opposing the bill, which charge Obama countered by claiming the proposed Illinois law substantially differed from the federal version of BAIPA.

According to an October 4, 2004 article in the Chicago Tribune, “Obama said that had he been in the U.S. Senate two years ago, he would have voted for the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, even though he voted against a state version of the proposal. The federal version was approved; the state version was not. …The difference between the state and federal versions, Obama explained, was that the state measure lacked the federal language clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion.”

However, the NRLC claims that newly obtained documents “demonstrate conclusively” that Obama’s defense is based on a “brazen factual misrepresentation.”
"Brazen factual misrepresentation" is a polite way to say lying. Barack Obama's answer is no, you're lying. And somehow, we're supposed to see him as representative of a new, harmonious kind of politics.

So let's read Dana Goldstein in Tapped. This is a strong attempt to defend Obama's position, published yesterday:
Today the New York Times weighs in with a piece parsing the language of the two separate "born alive" bills that Obama opposed in the Illinois state senate: The first, which NARAL did not oppose and which has a federal antecedent, would have defined as a "child" any fetus "born alive" during either a birth or abortion, making it a crime for doctors to withhold medical care from such babies, regardless of their eventual viability outside of the womb. The second bill would have allowed legal action against hospitals, doctors, and nurses that did not provide such care, and is the one pro-choice groups were more concerned about. They worried it would create a climate of fear in which practitioners would not perform abortions or complicated births because of the legal risks.

... Undoubtedly, NARAL made a smart political move when it decided not to oppose BAIPA; nobody wants to be painted as the cold-hearted group or individual who opposes life-saving interventions for babies. But if you're scratching your head about the intent of these bills -- wouldn't any doctor be compelled to save the life of any baby? are fetuses really "born alive" during abortions? -- you're not alone. It's worth going into some detail to clarify how BAIPA operates as a classic anti-choice strategy, distorting the very nature of abortion in order to horrify the public and erode support for choice.

In order for a fetus to be "born alive" during an abortion, that fetus would have to be removed from the womb relatively intact. But 90 percent of abortions are performed through aspiration (usually in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy), in which a surgical vacuum is used to empty out a woman's uterus. The vast majority of the remaining 10 percent of abortions consist of dilation and evacuation, which is usually performed after 16 weeks of pregnancy, often when a woman's health or life is at risk. Under that procedure, the aspiration process is sometimes preceded by an injection into the abdomen that ensures fetal demise.

The kind of abortion BAIPA really targets is so-called "partial birth abortion," or dilation and extraction, which accounts for less than one-fifth of one percent of all American abortions. It is used most often to end wanted pregnancies in which expectant parents learn their baby will not be viable outside of the womb. During the operation, the fetus' skull is collapsed inside of the woman, after which labor is induced and she delivers the fetus. Difficult stuff, and not a procedure any woman or doctor undergoes lightly or happily. That's why so few of these operations take place each year. But here the fetus is removed intact. Under BAIPA, this would open up doctors and nurses performing dilation and extraction to accusations of delivering "live" babies. It would be almost impossible to make such a claim when the result of an abortion is an aspirated mass of blood and tissue.

What is BAIPA? It's not a bill about babies at all -- doctors are already required to save babies' lives, and any ethical doctor would do so. BAIPA is a bill meant to reshape the language we use to talk about abortion and mislead the public about the possible outcomes of typical abortion procedures.
Maybe Obama thinks that any discussion of the details will only make it worse. Goldstein's explanation prompts follow-up questions. "So few"? But how many? "Any ethical doctor would do so"? But why can't we criminalize the behavior that is unethical? We don't say there should be no laws about murder because it's already unethical to commit murder. Now, I understand that the point is that hospital personnel don't want to have to live under the threat of criminal prosecution and that may be reason enough to vote against the law, but why can't Obama find a way to say it persuasively or at least well enough to fend off the uglier accusations?


Proofreading this post, I suddenly hear the resonance with "How Kerry Lost Me":
Six days later, I got irked at him for the first time, for saying "You're not listening" to a man who wanted to know what his position on Iraq was. Back then, Kerry was saying things like "We shouldn't only be tough, we have to be smart. And there's a smarter way to accomplish this mission than this president is pursuing." My question was: "If you still don't know what he would do differently from Bush, do you deserve to be snapped at for 'not listening'?" I've linked back to this old post of mine a number of times, because I never forgot that he got testy and accused a man of not listening, when in fact Kerry had never expressed himself clearly about what he would do in Iraq. I had been willing to wait a long time for a clear answer, yet here he was criticizing us for not having heard his answer yet. All I had heard was "smarter way," which just seemed like a placekeeper for a plan to be submitted later.
Don't get mad at us for not already knowing the answers! Explain it. Even if you've explained it before. In Kerry's case, I felt that he was pretending he'd already explained it because he had no explanation or because if he said what he really thought, we'd object on the merits.

And now, I notice that I've already written a post called "Obama echoes the phrase that made me turn against Kerry." I was reacting to a news article "Obama Says His Critics Haven’t Been Listening."

Come on, Obama. You've got a long way to go. And if you get elected, it's even longer. If you want to be President, abandon the dream of getting past our endless questioning and onto peaceful, happy harmony time.

August 20, 2008

"The Waterboard Thrill Ride" art installation.

Artforum reports:
Inside the room, decorated with small placards of female Disney characters, a sad-looking plant, Coke machines, and a jukebox, two paramedics stood by a gurney behind the crowd of thirty or so spectators (many of them journalists). [Artist Steve] Powers introduced himself and the event by saying that he didn’t intend the Thrill Ride to be political art, but “more like life drawing,” a representational act that “couldn’t be pushed to the right or the left.” He praised Coney Island, where he has lived and worked for years, as a “good place to confront horror.”... Powers then introduced the professional interrogator, Mike Ritz, clad in black fatigues and combat boots...

The participants left the room for a minute, then burst through the door; Powers, now hooded, was roughly guided to the inclined waterboarding table... After about eight seconds, Powers began to twitch and jerk on the table, and Ritz quickly removed the rag. Dazed and flushed, the artist was led out of the room. Without fanfare or dawdling, though with some mutual mask adjustment, the interrogators repeated the procedure on three lawyers....
Oh, come on! If you want to people to be upset about waterboarding, don't demonstrate it on lawyers.
.... who had volunteered for the experience....
Really now?

So... this is art because.... ?

Make sure your explanation distinguishes the recent Christopher Hitchens waterboarding, which couldn't be art, because if it was, the copycat art project shouldn't get a write-up in Artforum.

This is art because... it was done by an artist.

You can always use that one.

"Goat stuck on ledge on Llandudno's Great Orme."

Just the latest random story that has come up as a Google Alert on the name "John Roberts."

The keynote speaker for the Republican Convention.... Rudy Giuliani!

Wow. Interesting. I like it because he was such a great speaker at the 2004. As I live-blogged at the time:
He's lively and good humored. He expresses pleasure at seeing so many Republicans in New York. He says: "I don't believe we're right about everything and Democrats are wrong. They're wrong about most things. [Big laugh.] But seriously, neither party has a monopoly on virtue. We don't have all the right ideas. They don't have all the wrong ideas. But I do believe there are times in history when our ideas are more necessary and more important and critical and this is one of those times when we are facing war and danger." ...

He turns here to John Kerry, who has no clear, consistent vision. He says this isn't a personal criticism of Kerry and that he respects Kerry's military service, which draws spontaneous applause from the crowd. But the two men are different: Bush sticks with his position, and Kerry changes. Kerry voted against the Gulf War, Giuliani says, and when the crowd boos, he ad libs, "Ah! But he must have heard you booing," because Kerry later supported the war. Giuliani is animated and comical as he talks about Kerry. He quotes Kerry's famous voted-for-it-voted-against-it line and does a cool New York shrug with perfect timing. He has a punchline: maybe that's what Edwards means by "the two Americas." Giuliani is having a great time. He's passionate about fighting terrorism, biting as he criticizes Kerry.

His speaking style is far more engaging than McCain's--and McCain did well. Giuliani seems to be speaking extemporaneously and really talking to us....

He's going a little long now, and the audience is getting a bit restive. But he's still cooking. President Bush is the man! Giuliani is willing his beliefs into us. I'm not sure he has a way planned out of this speech. Freedom! Mission! Wait, I think he's coming in for a landing. He's got a final approach: "We'll make certain that they have heard from us." And a final line: "God bless America." Great, great speech.

Lower the drinking age to 18?

The Amethyst Initiative.
"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, the former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who founded the Amethyst Initiative. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."...

McCardell said that binge drinking occurs primarily because students must hide their behavior.

In its statement (currently signed by 114 college heads), Amethyst says, "Twenty-one is not working" and "A culture of dangerous, clandestine 'binge-drinking' - often conducted off-campus - has developed.

"Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students. …

"By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law."

The initiative wisely invites debate about whether the drinking age should be lowered instead of calling outright for legislative change. Let's be scientific about this. It's one thing to say alcohol abuse and drunk driving are terrible, but it's another thing to figure out the causal connection to the legal drinking age. There's nothing wrong with responsible, moderate drinking. What's the best way to encourage young people who are inclined to drink to do it the right way? I doubt that prohibition is best, and I'm enough of a libertarian to want to resolve doubts in favor of freedom. But sure, let's debate. I'd like to see the evidence analyzed.

China sentences Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, to "re-education through labor."

For the crime of not taking "no" for an answer.

So the government set up "protest zones" in various parks for people who wanted to protest during the Olympics. But you had to apply for a permit, and all the applications — reportedly 77 — were turned down. Wu and Wang made repeated applications.

Is Obama the Anti-Christ?/Is CNN crazy?

TPM clipped that together, so I don't know how ridiculous CNN actually looked, but it sure looks crazy in that montage.

Snopes investigates the Anti-Christ "rumor" here and declares it false. Thanks, Snopes.

"Let me be clear. I will let no one question my love of this country."

Not going to let us question him? Why that's unAmerican in itself!

The Hillary-McCain conspiracy.

"Oh, John, you know I love you and I’m happy to help... The themes you took from me are working great — painting Obama as an elitist and out-of-touch celebrity, when we’re rich celebrities, too. Turning his big rallies and pretty words into character flaws, charging him with playing the race card — that one always cracks me up. And accusing the media, especially NBC, of playing favorites. It’s easy to get the stupid press to navel-gaze; they’re so insecure."

"McCain leads Obama by a 46% to 41% margin."

Polls Zogby:
And McCain not only enjoys a five-point edge in a two-way race against Obama, but also in a four-way contest including liberal independent candidate Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr, the poll reveals. In the four-way contest, McCain wins 44% support, Obama 39%, Barr 3% and Nader 2%.
And this poll was taken from August 14-16, before the Saddleback Civil Forum which, it seems, will boost McCain. Obama needs a smashingly good convention week.

ADDED: A poll. Note: By pick Hillary, I mean Obama should pick Hillary for VP. Please take Obama's point of view.

How can Obama turn things around in the next week?
Pick Hillary!
Do something other than pick Hillary. free polls

To give you more room to opine, I'll make a second poll, and please do this from the point of view of the superdelegates who want their party to win.

What should the superdelegates do at the convention next week?
Throw the nomination to Hillary.
Stick (sandal!) with Obama. free polls

Sullyboating, Swiftboating, sandals, sticks, stickage, and strawberries.

Sullyboating. It's not Swiftboating.
Let's see if I get Sullivan's argument - McCain's memory of a cross in the dirt is not a story about his courage or in his military record, and he may or may not have invented it in 2000 for political purposes; therefore, critics are not engaging in "Swiftboating" when they pick at it.
(Via Instapundit.)

Sullivan has tried to justify himself by displaying a campaign ad — an effective one — and noting that, there, we see the cross drawn in the dirt with a stick, but McCain has said the guard drew the cross with his sandal.
Could the campaign confirm that the ad itself is visually incompatible with the Salter story? Or were they unconcerned with such detail, assuming no one would be foolish enough to question a war hero's unconfirmable anecdote - and eager merely to show the deeper (and true) point that McCain relied on God to survive the unimaginable?

This incident is not part of McCain's military service - certainly not one he thought was in any way salient in his first 12,000 word account of his experience. It is part of his 2000 and 2008 campaigns and the religious mythology they coopted in order to appeal to a very specific audience. If a blogger cannot raise factual questions about a campaign ad and a campaign narrative, he's not really worth much.
My response:

1. If Sullivan's distinction bothers you, maybe you just don't have the appreciation for nuance that it takes to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate these days.

2. I think most people would laugh at the argument that a particular type of attack is legitimate so that bloggers will be worth more. What if the National Enquirer justified its publication of sneak pictures of a candidate in his hotel room on the theory that otherwise supermarket tabloids are not really worth much?

3. Wouldn't it be easier to say that what the Swift Boaters did was okay?

4. It can't help Obama to show that McCain ad over and over again for the purpose of arguing about a stick and a sandal. I think ordinary people — who aren't dumb enough to think we're looking at the original footage (or stickage, if you will) — would regard it as weirdly disproportionate to obsess over the detail of sticks and sandals. So let's take a film break:

August 19, 2008

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Climb up out of the parking garage and catch the first glimpse:

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

At the end of a sunlit hallway:

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

The interior of the cathedral has a design reflecting 2 theological truths: 1. "the LIGHT of God revealed in salvation history, especially in and through Jesus Christ, \" and 2. "the sense of JOURNEY which describes our evolving relationship with God. We are on the journey, alone and together as the People of God, on pilgrimage, towards redemption in our lives. Therefore, as we walk away from the darkness of evil, we move towards the saving Light of Christ and the fullness of the Kingdom of God in Heaven."

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels


Glenn Loury and John McWhorter on McCain and Obama at the Saddleback Civil Forum.

How the 2 candidates' styles vary:

Also, Loury really objects to the way Obama talked about Clarence Thomas:

ADDED: Some equal time for McWhorter:

Inside Obama's Indonesian homes.

(Via Bloggingheads.)

How stupid is it for Obama supporters to question the truth of McCain's "cross in the dirt" story?

Very stupid. Checking out the story, Byron York called Mark Salter, who worked with McCain on his book "Faith of Our Fathers." Salter confirms that McCain told him the cross story, and when York presses him on why McCain didn't tell such a "pivotal" story more often, Salter says:
"That's just plain bulls—t. His pivotal experience was his refusal of early release and the three or four days of torture he took for it, his confession, and his attempted suicide. That was his pivotal experience. He's never represented [the "cross in the dirt" story] to be that."
Whatever benefit Obama supporters might get from questioning the "cross in the dirt" story, it is vastly overshadowed by the vivid and terrifying facts of McCain's imprisonment. Why are you creating more occasions for McCain supporters to repeat those facts? I should think you'd want to package his Vietnam past away with some respectful words and return the focus to the present.

But more generally, politicians, including Obama, often impose a religious interpretation on stories about themselves. They prayed, they had faith in God, Jesus led them out of whatever difficulty they encountered. What good is done by questioning that? Oh, did you really pray to God on that occasion? Prove it!

At the Saddleback Civil Forum, Obama said his religion gave him the "confidence" to run for President. You know, I don't believe that, but so what? What the hell difference does it make? I could imagine getting into a huff over the implication that atheists couldn't dare to run for President or that he's incredibly arrogant to suggest that God tapped him on the shoulder and let him know that he's the one. But I'm not in the mood. I'm tolerating all the usual religious frippery. It's the way politicians blather.

Now, yes, the "cross in the dirt" story — or as Andrew Sullivan calls it, "The Dirt In The Cross Story" — purports to describe an event that occurred in the external world, and whether it actually happened seems more specific than whether Senator X thought about Jesus one day. And it is interesting that there's a "cross in the dirt" story in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago." [Or maybe not!] So did McCain lift the story from Solzhenitsyn?

A better question is: Is that the kind of attack you want to make?

You may be so in love with the a-ha you think you've found that you fail to see how ridiculous you sound to people who are not already on your side — i.e., the people you need to persuade.

To help you get a sense of your ridiculousness, let me tell you about the time, long ago, in 1991, at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, when Senator Orrin Hatch wanted to impeach the credibility of Thomas's accuser Anita Hill:
Senator Hatch ... suggested that Professor Hill's account of how Judge Thomas, in the privacy of his office, once remarked to her that someone had put a pubic hair on his can of Coke could have been inspired by a scene in the 1971 novel, "The Exorcist." In that scene a character complains of pubic hair in his glass of gin.
Whether Hill was lying or not, the issue of whether she was lifting ideas about pubic hair from "The Exoricist" was perfectly silly and only made her attackers look desperate (and a tad nutty).

"The feminist movement has a right to define what constitutes being a member, and I'm not going to appropriate their label if it bothers them..."

"... any more than I'm going to start calling myself a Catholic who just doesn't happen recognize the authority of the Church. If you read any feminist blogs, you'll know that they spend an enormous amount of time trying to define the core values of feminism, and while I may disagree with the definitions they end up with, if they dislike my opinions on the matter, well, it's their movement."

Says Megan McArdle, and I completely disagree. I was going to explain my disagreement in detail but the second comment over there — by Julian Sanchez — is so apt that it instantly cured me of any propensity toward verbosity:
Why is it "their movement"? I didn't realize the analogy "Jessica Valenti : Feminism :: The Pope : Catholicism" held.
And why must feminism be attached to that ugly word "movement"? Movement feminists can have and define their movement, but they shouldn't be allowed to claim feminism. You know, back in the 1980s, I used to be afraid to say I was a feminist because there were other, more active people out there defining the term and I didn't want to adopt by reference a set of beliefs that I wasn't able to control. By behaving that way, I was ceding the field to the most activist types. That's what Megan is talking about doing now. I understand the impulse to say: Okay, then you can have your word and make it mean whatever you want it to mean. I'll find a different word. But if a word has a grand history and tradition — and "feminism" does — then it deserves a wide usage and a continued struggle over its meaning. Don't give it away to the boldest aggressor.

ADDED: Elisa Camahort thinks I have the better side of this argument and says:
In a way McArdle's concession of the term is not much different than Rush Limbaugh painting feminists as Feminazis. It's saying: over there there is a group of people who hold beliefs with which I disagree, and I am going to decide that they represent the sum total of all people who might believe some of the same stuff.
I do need to defend Rush here. In the time I've been listening to him (since January 2008), he hasn't said "feminazis" much, and when he does, it's always to bait a certain type of type of extremist feminist. He seems to support equal rights for women and similar individualistic feminist values.

In fact, I have heard him encourage young women not to marry, to go into business, and to compete with men. I have never heard him say women are inferior or that they should devote their lives to serving men and bearing children. So I suspect that he would concede that he agrees with feminism broadly defined.

The people to whom McArdle would defer are perhaps the same kind of extremists that Rush is talking about when he says feminazis. So if McArdle-style deference were to prevail, "feminist" and "feminazi" would come to mean the same thing but only because the category "feminist" will have shrunken.

What? Not interested in "squishy grey area between the analytical/political and the creative/autobiographical"?

This blog post aptly titled "Blog headings are pointless" is making me — me the blogger — nervous.

And the subject makes me want — oh, yeah, me and my emotions — to link to this review of Maria Wyke's: "Caesar: A Life in Western Culture":
Ms. Wyke's concern is how we have created and adapted Caesar's image and historical importance over the past 2,000 years....

The principle behind this kind of study is known as "reception theory." Its typical proponent is skeptical of how much we can know of what someone like Caesar and his contemporaries did and thought; a reception theorist is much more confident of how we have come to use and think about them ourselves....

Ms. Wyke offers a sharp analysis of how John Wilkes Booth took up the mantle of Brutus against the Caesar Lincoln -- and how Shakespeare's language was propelled into the assassination coverage by the American press. (Booth himself called the day of his attack "the Ides.") She deals briskly with how Napoleon used Caesar's example to justify and extend his emergency powers -- and how critics of Bonapartism stressed Caesar's role in turning military adventures abroad into despotism at home.
I'm always going to be more interested in the way people understand and use things than in what is actually true.

"My God, it's a mansion!"

"It's a house."

Now, have a nice breakfast. And don't sell the house. I love this house.

Are you still watching the Olympics?

The Phelps sweep is over, and now what? Last night, I was talking on the phone and had the Olympics on — I forget if it was live or the previous night's recording — and it was vaguely interesting watching horses jump — strange that an animal's athletic powers count — and pretty uninteresting watching boats go from left to right. I'm still theoretically interested in gymnastics, but I am incapable of avoiding spoilers like the one the NYT has spanning the top of its website right now. I watched the long competition for the women's all-around medal the other night knowing who won each medal, but since then, spoilage has put me off. Now, all the track and field is coming up, and I realize I don't care at all. I know from reading comments on previous Olympics posts that many of you prefer the events where the winner is determined by who crosses a line or touches a wall first, rather that by mystifying numbers produced by panels of experts, but I like the events where form and complexity vary infinitely. I can develop my own perception and judgment, and if the judges do something else, I can think about that and try to figure it out or get pissed off. What's the point of monitoring races to see who crosses a line first? Check. That happened. So-and-so is the fastest man in the world. Well, of course, someone is the fastest man in the world.

August 18, 2008

Talking about "non-Barack-backing blacks" in January 2007.

I was just revisiting this:

Interesting, no?

ADDED: Here's the whole episode. And going back to January 14, 2007, here's my blog post that this segment was based on, and the underlying article in the TimesOnline, which was called "Obama's charm lost on America's black activists." It's interesting to go back and see how things looked at the time:
Civil rights leaders who have dominated black politics for much of the past two decades have pointedly failed to embrace the 45-year-old Illinois senator who is considering a bid to become America’s first black president....

The Rev Al Sharpton, the fiery New York preacher who joined the Democratic primary race in 2004, said he was considering another presidential run of his own. And Harry Belafonte, the calypso singer who became an influential civil rights activist, said America needed to be “careful” about Obama: “We don’t know what he’s truly about.”

The unexpected coolness between the old civil rights guard and the new Democratic hopeful has added an intriguing twist to the budding rivalry between Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton...

Why won't the University of Illinois let Stanley Kurtz research its records relating to the Obama-Ayers relationship?


Judge Richard A. Posner on the D.C. guns case (Heller): "In Defense of Looseness."

A nice long article in The New Republic. I'll excerpt a little (but read the whole thing):
The idea behind the decision--it is not articulated, of course, and perhaps not even consciously held--may simply be that turnabout is fair play. Liberal judges have used loose construction to expand constitutional prohibitions beyond any reasonable construal of original meaning; and now it is the conservatives' turn. Another plausible example of payback is the conservative justices' expansive interpretation of the free-speech clause of the First Amendment to limit regulation of campaign financing....

Constitutional interpretations that relax rather than tighten the Constitution's grip on the legislative and executive branches of government are especially welcome when there are regional or local differences in relevant conditions or in public opinion. The failure to recognize this point (or perhaps indifference to it) was the mistake that the Supreme Court made when it nationalized abortion rights in Roe v. Wade. It would be the mistake the Court would be making in the unlikely event that it created a federal constitutional right of homosexual marriage. It is the mistake the Court has made in Heller....

Heller gives short shrift to the values of federalism, and to the related values of cultural diversity, local preference, and social experimentation....

I cannot discern any principles in the pattern of the Supreme Court's constitutional interpretations. The absence of principles supports the hypothesis that ideology drives decision in cases in which liberal and conservative values collide. If loose construction produces a conservative limitation on government, most conservatives will support it and most liberals will oppose it; and if it produces a liberal limitation on government, most liberals and conservatives will switch sides.

"Obama VP buzz squarely on Biden."

Says CNN.

Love the pic at the link.

Biden is looking... kind of Obamaesque.

The sunglasses say: It will be Biden!

Okay with me. I like seeing my home state of Delaware get some attention. But if it's Biden, I am going to lose a bet that I made a long time ago.

I thoroughly hate the current craze for presenting food as medicine.

And I am going to start collecting crap like:
Soothe Yourself with This Pizza Topper

For a little bit of cell-soothing nutrition, add an extra sprinkle of these zingy flakes to your slice: oregano.

That’s right -- oregano doesn’t just add pizzazz to your pizza sauce. It may have the power to prevent tissue-damaging inflammation, too.
What the hell is "cell-soothing"?

Let me pick up 2 earlier posts to begin the food-as-medicine collection.

Speaking of cancer, I was just at Whole Foods, about to buy a package of granola bars, turned the box over to read the ingredients, and the first thing I saw was a paragraph about "bowel cancer." The hell! Don't put the word "bowel" on the box. "Cancer" is bad enough, but "bowel"? What are they thinking? This food as medicine trend is disgusting. I put the box back on the shelf.
Hated the Full Throttle, which they were passing out free at the Severe Tire Damage Not An Entrance to the parking lot at Venice Beach. The dialogue went something like this:

That stuff tastes evil!

I wouldn't say evil.

Evil! Why do they have to make it taste terrible? To make you think it's medicinal!

Maybe it tastes like that because of all the energy stuff they put in it.

They just want you to think that stuff does something, so they give it an evil taste so you'll think they put something significant in it. They made it taste bad on purpose.